Canada to resettle 5,000 Afghan refugees evacuated by the US

Afghan refugees who supported Canada’s mission in Afghanistan prepare to board buses after arriving at Toronto Pearson International Airport on Aug 24, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

OTTAWA (REUTERS) - Canada said on Tuesday (Aug 31) it would resettle some 5,000 Afghan refugees evacuated by the United States as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government addresses an issue critics say has been neglected during his campaign for re-election.

"We know there is more to do with allied evacuation operations ending," Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino told a briefing. "We're pulling out all the stops to help as many Afghans as possible who want to make their home in Canada."

Canada evacuated 3,700 people from Kabul in recent weeks, of which some 2,000 were Afghans - and their families - who had helped Canadian soldiers and diplomats in the past. Canada ended its mission to Afghanistan in 2011 but military trainers stayed on until 2014.

Trudeau, 49, called a snap Sept 20 election on the day Kabul fell, and critics said his government's evacuation efforts were slow and fell short of what other countries were doing.

Some 54 per cent of Canadians think Ottawa should have acted more quickly to help Afghans, according to a Postmedia/Leger Marketing poll published last week.

The 5,000 refugees evacuated by the United States will be resettled as part of a previously announced Canadian plan to accept more than 20,000 vulnerable Afghans who had already left the country - including women leaders, human rights workers and reporters.

"We want to welcome Afghan families who have helped Canadians, who have who fought for justice, who fought for rights for the LGBT community, for women, for journalists," Trudeau told an Ottawa campaign event on Tuesday.

Canada said it hoped to continue to help Afghans who want to resettle as long as the Taliban allow them to leave. Some 1,250 Canadian nationals, permanent residents and family members are stranded in Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Marc Garneau said.

"Afghans with travel documents to other countries must be allowed to move safely and freely out of the country without interference," Garneau told the briefing. "Canada and its allies are firm on this point, and we are united."

Celebratory gunfire resounded across Kabul on Tuesday as the Taliban took control of the airport following the withdrawal of the last US troops, marking the end of a 20-year war that left the Islamist group stronger than it was in 2001.

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